The Greens welcomed the long-delayed release of the Federal Government's draft legislation on homelessness this week, and urged the Government to take immediate action to tackle the crisis.
Greens housing spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam said the Bill represented a more realistic understanding of homelessness, but a more detailed analysis is needed to identify potential improvements.
"Homelessness is not just confined to sleeping rough. Most people experiencing homelessness are sleeping on couches, or in lodging houses and other temporary accommodation, because they can't afford a place to live. Seven out of every eight homeless people are sleeping on couches because they've nowhere else to go.
"We want to ensure no homeless people fall through gaps in the definition and we will speak with the Minister to get clarity on the use of ‘choice' in the draft as there is an important distinction between choice and adaptation. The Greens will be consulting widely with the sector to find ways to improve the legislation.
"The White paper on homelessness was released in 2008 and declared an aim to halve homelessness by 2020. Four years later - how much progress has been made? The waiting list for people seeking social housing list has grown to 250,000. There was an inquiry and report released back in 2009 on how this legislation should look - and it took three years to produce. We need decisive action now.
"We need to see a commitment to at least doubling funding for homelessness services and accommodation in the new National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) which is being negotiated this year for the next four years of funding. The Greens call on the Federal Government to negotiate with the sector directly on the NAHA.
"The National Rental Affordability Scheme was launched in 2008 and provided enough incentives over four years for 50,000 new affordable rental properties. A further 50,000 incentives were promised from 2012 if demand was strong. It's time to hold the Government to this promise. Most people now experiencing homelessness are coming from the private rental market.
"For the past two years The Greens have submitted our Convert to Rent initiative to Treasury for consideration. It involves grants of up to $21,000 to help landlords convert empty commercial space, shop-top rooms, and run-down homes into affordable rental housing - this could make a big difference to the affordable housing shortage at a low cost. We argued strongly for $350 million, which would have resulted in 15,000 more affordable rental dwellings - the Government should embrace this initiative."